Elizabeth Edwards’ Will is on the news, in the papers and on the internet.  The whole world knows that she died last month after a battle with breast cancer, and made no mention of estranged husband John Edwards in her will.

According to CNN.com, “the will names her 28-year-old daughter Catherine as executor and leaves everything to her three children. All of my furniture, furnishings, household goods, jewelry, china, silverware and personal effects and any automobiles … to be divided among them.”  Her will is all public information.

I have a hard time believing that someone who went to law school passed her assets in a will.  A will is not private.  It must be probated and in the court proceeding everything becomes part of the public record.  That means we all know what happened in Elizabeth’s will.

Elizabeth Edwards’ Will is Public Information

Remember when Michael Jackson died?  The news media and tabloids were all drooling over how his multi-million dollar estate was going to be chopped up and the fights that might occur.  About two weeks after his death, it was disclosed that all of his estate was held in a living revocable trust.  You haven’t heard one word about Jackson’s estate since it was learned that everything was in a trust.  It appears that because a will was all Elizabeth had, has she isn’t going to be as lucky.  Her estate is going to be drug through the media tabloids for years.

That’s unfortunate.  It will but a burden and strain on her family that could have easily been avoided.  She was an attorney.  Why didn’t she do the smart thing?  Actually, it is smart that she had a will.  Most Americans don’t even have a will.

But Elizabeth should have also had a living revocable trust.  Then her estate would have been totally private.  The fact that she cut her ex-husband, John Edwards, out of her inheritance would have never made the news.

The problem is attorneys aren’t taught about living trusts.  Fortune Magazine a while back reported that less then 1% of American lawyers knew how to draft a good living trust.

If you want to take care of your family, keep your estate private, and pass the maximum amount of your estate to your family, you’re going to have to get involved and learn about the living trust and other options.

You can’t just blindly walk in off the street and say to your lawyer, “Here I am. Set me up,” because he will do exactly that – set you up.  There’s no reason for your family to go through the mess that Elizabeth’s family is facing.

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